The 1,000 Year GIF Won't Be Over Until 3017

A Helsinki art collective is building a GIF to outlast all our lifetimes.

Sep 22 2015, 6:00pm

The last image in the 1000-year GIF. Image: As Long As Possible

In 2017, Finnish artists will begin playing a GIF with 48,140,288 frames, designed to run for a period of 1,000 years.

The piece, titled "AS Long As Possible," is an homage to John Cage's piece "As SLow aS Possible." The composer's 1987 organ piece has no set tempo and is intended to be played, well, as slowly as possible.

Each frame of the GIF will show for 10 minutes, meaning its first loop won't end until 3017. The frames are stark black-and-white, showing only a number indicating the frame's position in the sequence.

Art site Hyperallergic reached out to one of the artists, Juha van Ingen, to discuss the meaning of the piece. "If nurturing a GIF loop even for 100—let alone [1,000] years—seems an unbelievable task, how much remains of our present digital culture after that time?" he said.

In other words, preserving the function of the GIF is likely impossible, and it is intended to serve as a wake-up call about the meaninglessness and impermanence of the constant stream of net effluvia we digest.

The artists are holding out until 2017 to mark the 30th anniversary of the file format. The piece's display method is still up in the air, and may just be livestreamed on the internet.

Meanwhile, a church in Germany is 14 years into a performance of Cage's piece that will run for another 625 years. And for the curious, here's "As SLow aS Possible" played as fast as possible. It is not melodic.